Minerals service proposes rules for Outer Continental Shelf

The Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service has issued a proposed rulemaking maintaining it is the lead federal agency with jurisdiction for regulating ocean and tidal energy projects on the offshore Outer Continental Shelf.

MMS issued the proposed rulemaking and a notice of availability of a draft environmental assessment analyzing the proposal on July 8. In the 460-page document, MMS states it has conferred with FERC staff to reduce inconsistencies between regulatory requirements applicable to projects licensed by FERC within U.S. territorial sea, and those that would operate under the proposed MMS rules.

MMS said such coordination is essential because it is foreseeable some projects could straddle the boundary between the territorial sea and the OCS. However, MMS said, the agencies were unable to resolve conflicting views as to whether the Federal Power Act grants FERC jurisdiction to at least 12 nautical miles offshore, which would limit MMS authority to oversee wave or current projects.

MMS previously called for comments on its planned environmental assessment of rules to regulate ocean and tidal energy projects. (HNN 3/3/08) The agency published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in December 2005. A final programmatic environmental impact statement published in November 2007 analyzes establishment of an Alternative Energy and Alternate Use program on the OCS.

In January, MMS issued a decision to proceed with management of alternative energy projects, including ocean energy projects, on the OCS. At that time, it said it would consider individual energy projects on a case-by-case basis before it completes final programmatic regulations.

Comments on the proposed rulemaking (MMS-2008-OMM-0012) and draft EA are due Sept. 8. The notice of proposed rulemaking and draft EA are available on the MMS website, www.mms.gov. The address for the proposed rule and notice of availability of the draft EA is www.mms.gov/offshore/AlternativeEnergy/Assets/PDFs/2008-14911_PI.pdf.

Following the 60-day comment period, MMS will release the final rule and final EA for regulating alternative energy production activities and alternate uses of existing facilities on the OCS. MMS said it expects to complete the final rule by December 2008.

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